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7 strategies for defending against the bots of the internet

August 28, 2018    |    Cyber Security    |    Lauren Elkins

Look to your right. Look over your left shoulder. You’re surrounded!

As you browse the internet, using whatever device you enter this virtual world with, you are surrounded. You might imagine you’re surrounded by other people, worldwide, who are wandering from site to site alongside you, but according to a recent report by Incapsula on Global Bot Traffic, you are more likely to be surrounded by bots.

Bots are responsible for 52 percent of web traffic. It’s possible you’re visiting our site alongside a nonhuman visitor today. And harmful bots have the edge over helpful bots. Specifically, the report has found that for the last five years, one in every three visitors to a site was an attack bot.

Bots crawl the web without concern about stopping by the most popular sites or hunting down the largest corporations. This means that businesses large and small are equally at risk. No matter your size, good bots will crawl your site and bad bots will try to attack you. The attitude that it won’t happen to you is not a safe attitude. Here’s an overview of what the attack bots are, followed by the steps to take to protect your online brand.

Understanding the attack bots:

Impersonator bots. These bad guys are used for DDoS attacks. Some of the famous impersonator bots include Nitol malware and Mirai malware. These bad guys swarm websites, overwhelming servers and shutting down traffic to anyone else. They make up 24 percent of web traffic. One way you can protect yourself against DDoS attacks is with Private Tunnel VPN. You can find more details about it on our site: How a VPN provides DDoS Protection.

Unauthorized data scrapers. These bad guys act just like the good guys, but WITHOUT permission. Web scraping has been around for many years as bots do it to index content for search engines or price comparison tools try to give you the best deal on the Amazon product you’ve been eyeing. Bad bots, however, scrape data with malicious intent. These bad guys could “steal intellectual property, price lists, customer lists, insurance pricing,” according to Incapsula. Not cool, right? Other bad scrapers may also stop by, grab copies of your content and post it elsewhere. This automated plagiarism may feel infuriating, but in addition to stealing your content, it can actually DROP your SEO ranking as search engines see YOUR content as stolen. Who wrote it first?

Spambots. These bad guys show up in your comments section or they may flood Twitter timelines with anything from political messages to complete nonsense. These villains post irrelevant content, which can annoy site visitors and taint your online brand. They may also insert links to malware, sending visitors to dangerous places and causing your site to get automatically blacklisted.

Scavengers. These bad guys are hunting for security vulnerabilities to exploit. For example, is your site set up through WordPress with various plug-ins you’ve customized and deployed? Do you keep everything updated with the latest version? If a scavenger stops by and your Jetpack plugin is on an old version, it may find an un-patched security issue and jump on it with vicious actions such as site hijacking or injecting malware codes or links into the HTML header of your site.

Protecting your online brand:

Have an attitude of prevention. Your site WILL be visited by attack bots. Incapsula’s study revealed that 94 percent of domains experienced at least one bot attack within the 90-days studied. It’s practically a guarantee, which means you need to take action. This is the first step: understanding and accepting that your business is a target. Bots will target websites even when there is zero human traffic.

Block the bad guys. Set up your site with plugins that will block spam comments and malicious users. And when spam gets through, go in and delete the comments right away.

Set up traffic filtration for ads. This will check the status of a visitor to your site and display ads only to relevant viewers and not bots. Don’t let bots hurt the profitability of your online campaigns.

Monitor your search ranking. If your SEO rank drops suddenly, that’s a red flag to comb through your site’s code and review your security for the possible impact of bots.

Search for copied content. You can find apps and sites to help you search for copies of your site online. Protect your copy and your brand. Many offer the ability to search for plagiarized copy for free and offer services that will automate the process for a fairly low cost. It’s up to you if you want to manually check on a regular basis or set up an automated set-it-and-forget-it service.

Use VPN as a layer of protection. In today’s online world, only one tool (such as an antivirus) isn’t enough to protect you from all of the various threats. With Private Tunnel VPN, you can block online threats, shield your devices, stop hackers and protect personal information.

Set up your site with HTTPS. Data sent between visitors and your site, when using HTTPS, is secured via Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. You’ll be sending and receiving through three layers of protection: encryption, data integrity and authentication. Combined with VPN, you’ll improve your online security, as we talked about in this FAQ: I’m using secure browsing with HTTPS, why do I need Private Tunnel?

Our seven strategies above are part of a layered approach to protecting your business’s online brand. Make sure you’re focusing on as much as you can. The best way to defend yourself is by being vigilant.

Better Safe Than Sorry